The struggles are well-documented, and the forecast has been rather bleak for the Kansas City Royals recently. With only four winning seasons since 1990, this franchise has been mired in one of the longest funks in professional sports history.
While the profuse stagnation has stained this city with a stout stench, the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to grow less dim as the Royals endured one of their most pointed, and talked about, offseasons in recent memory.
Ownership and management made it a focal point to improve the team’s most glaring deficiency: starting pitching. Though some of the moves drew ire, no one can point to a lack of effort in the Royals’ attempt to field a more competitive ball club in 2013.
Their offense is comprised largely of homegrown talent with much promise, but their starting rotation required a complete overhaul in order for the Royals to climb back to respectability. To do so, money had to be spent and top prospects needed to be used as trade bait.
The most notable move this offseason was obtaining James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays.
By sending off minor league player of the year, Wil Myers, pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery and infielder Patrick Leonard, the Royals set out to prove they mean business and have full intent on escaping their extended stretch of futility.
While the Myers-Shields trade will be the hottest topic around Kansas City as the season progresses, the bigger move for the Royals was re-signing Jeremy Guthrie—who was acquired last summer in a trade that sent Jonathan Sanchez to the Colorado Rockies.
With the Rockies, Guthrie was not very effective—compiling a 6.35 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP, while striking out just 45 and walking 31 batters in 15 starts.
With the Royals, however, he managed to cut his ERA to 3.16 and his WHIP to 1.13 in 14 starts. Guthrie also upped his strikeout total to 56 while reducing his walks allowed to just 19.
Kansas City rewarded Guthrie’s performance by inking him to a three year deal worth $25 million. He will more than likely settle in as the team’s No. 2 starter behind Shields.
While his career numbers are not what one would consider worthy of that status, Guthrie will provide the Royals with a consistent option near the top of their rotation—spots formerly held by Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar, who are merely fighting for relevancy at this point in their careers.
Top to bottom, Kansas City will need solid contribution from everyone for this team to compete this season. Guthrie’s role will serve as the bridge within a pitching staff that looks to be much improved over previous years.
Shields is expected to be the workhorse the Royals acquired him to be. Guthrie’s performance, however, will set the stage for Davis, Ervin Santana (acquired via trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) and whoever is tabbed as the team’s No. 5 starter.
If Guthrie pitches well, it will provide a pressure-less environment for the rest of the staff to just go out and pitch. If Guthrie falters, the Royals might find themselves reverting back to their old ways—squandering all the goodwill built up from the offseason.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter.